|Ras el hanout in a bowl|
Ras el hanout is used in many savory dishes, sometimes rubbed on meat or fish, or stirred into couscous or rice. The mix is generally associated with Morocco, although neighboring North African countries use it as well.
There is no definitive composition of spices that makes up ras el hanout. Each shop, company, or family may have their own blend. The mixture usually consists of over a dozen spices, in different proportions, although some purists insist that it must contain exactly 12 items.
Commonly used ingredients include cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dry ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek, and dry turmeric. Some spices may be particular to the region, such as ash berries, chufa, grains of paradise, orris root, monk's pepper, cubebs, dried rosebud, fennel seed or aniseed, galangal, long pepper. Ingredients may be toasted before being ground or pounded in a mortar and mixed together. Some preparations include salt or sugar, but that is generally not the accepted practice. Garlic, saffron, nuts or dry herbs are generally not included, as they are usually added to dishes individually, but some commercial preparations, particularly in Europe and North America, may contain them.